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Banffshire
Chapter 23. The Chief Towns and Villages of Banffshire


(The figures in brackets after each name give the population in 1911.)

Aberchirder (1048), in Marnoch parish, begun in 1746 by General Gordon of Auchintoul, was constituted a burgh in 1889. The Rose-Innes Cottage Hospital, for the parishes of Marnoch and Forglen was founded by Miss E. O. Rose-Innes of Oldtown of Netherdale. In the old churchyard, two miles from the town are the fragments of a building that had been used in succession as a Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian parish church. The adjacent existing church was built about the commencement of last century. A historic event was enacted within its walls and around them on that wintry morning of 21st January, 1841, when the seven suspended ministers of Strathbogie met to induct Mr John Edward to the pastorate of the parish. The proceedings of that day rang throughout ecclesiastical Scotland and helped to precipitate the disruption of the National Church two years later.

Aberlour (1272) is, of right, Charlestown of Aberlour, from the name of its founder early in the nineteenth century, Charles Grant of Wester Elchies. The parish, of the same name, was originally Skirdustan—the division of Dustan (Drostan), its tutelary saint. The town became a burgh in 1894. The fine Town Hall was the gift of the late Mr James Fleming, distiller and bank agent, who left also ,C9000 to build and endow a cottage hospital for Aberlour and Loo for the erection of a suspension foot-bridge over the Spey to connect with Knockando. Aberlour has a large orphanage founded by the late Canon Jupp, a man of abounding enterprise.

Banff (3821) is a very ancient place of human habitation. Standing at the mouth of a productive river, the town had fertile land around it. Through the friendly co-operation of river and sea a bar formed a harbour of refuge well suited to the wants of early navigation, and it was a member of a northern Hanse, connection with which gave valuable trading privileges. Malcolm Canmore may have made it a royal burgh: it is mentioned as royalty in 1057. A charter of Robert II,

of date 1372, is still in existence. For centuries it has been the seat of the administration of law and local government in the county. Banff suffered from both parties in the stormy Covenanting times: "no merchant's goods nor gear left" is the record after a plundering by

Montrose in 1645. Soldiers were frequently in it, sometimes quartered on it because of the non-payment of taxes, sometimes, as after the Forty-five, to quell Jacobite ambitions in the district.

A surgeon with Cumberland's army in 1746 records that then the town lived chiefly by smuggling, and go years later it is designated as "perhaps the gayest little town in Scotland." Wolfe, the future conqueror of Canada, described Banff as "a remote and solitary part of the globe... .When I am in Scotland, I look upon myself as an exile." John Wesley visited Banff three times, and wrote of it as "one of the neatest and most elegant towns that I have seen in Scotland." Boswell

and Johnson spent a night in it, the latter uttering a growl because the inn windows had no pulleys. Burns stayed a night in the town, 8th September, 1787.

Byron as a boy lived for a short time with relatives at Banff and by one indignant person was characterised as "that little deevil, Geordie Byron." The poet Southey, who visited Banff in 1819, with his friend Telford the engineer, then engaged in harbour extension, wrote of it as a "clean, cheerful and active little place."

The Town-house, built between 1796 and 1800, occupies part of the site known as the Towers, which were almost the last remains of Lord Banff's Palace. The Burgh Cross is very old and is mentioned in 1542. There are a number of fine memorial stones in the old churchyard, including a monument to the family of Archbishop Sharp. Some of the quaint old houses bear inscriptions, but little is left to mark the site of the Carmelite monastery. The Public Library and Museum was erected in 1902 on the site of the "Turrets," where Cumberland had his meal store for the army. Chalmers Hospital was built and endowed from the estate of Alexander Chalmers of Clunie, merchant and shipowner of Banff and Gardenstown, who died in 1835. There are two boat-building yards in the town and the fishing industry is of considerable importance.

Buckie (8897), the earliest fishing station in Rathven parish, is the largest town in Banffshire and has more line fishermen than any other town in Scotland. It consists of three main divisions: Buckpool, Easter Buckie and Portessie. Buckie, Buckpool, Ianstown and Gordonsburgh were erected a burgh in 1888 and Portessie was incorporated in it in 19o3. The activities of the town centre largely round the harbour, which was opened in 1879 and which, with later additions, cost the Cluny Trustees,C8o,000 when it was purchased by the Town Council, under whose management it has been greatly extended at a heavy expenditure. The Buckie fishermen own a magnificent fleet of fishing craft whose influence is felt wherever they operate round the British Isles. The graceful twin spires of St Peter's Church, rising to a height of 115 feet, form a notable feature of the local architecture.

Craigellachie is the railway junction of the main line Aberdeen to Elgin and the Strathspey line to Perth via Boat of Garten. It is beautifully situated near where the waters of the Fiddich reach the Spey and is very popular as a summer resort. One of the most beautiful bridges in the county is that over the Spey. The cast-metal arch and framing, so light and airy in appearance, the embattled towers which flank the abutments, the rugged and precipitous rocks overhanging the river and the roadway, the dark deep pool below, the finely wooded eminence in the background, and the picturesque accessories which enhance the prospect on all sides, combine to render Craigellachie Bridge a picture of no ordinary beauty and charm. It was erected in 1815 by Mr Simpson of Shrewsbury, after a design by Telford, and withstood the floods of 1829, when the water here rose to the height of 15 feet above the ordinary level. The arch is 150 feet span, and the turrets rise to so feet.

Crovie (282), a fishing village in the very east of the county, is built close on the sea at the base of Troup Head. It stands in a picturesque neighbourhood.

Cullen (1992) is a town of great antiquity. It has a charter of James II, March 1455, ratifying burghal privileges granted by Robert I. It consists of two parts, the New Town and the Seatown. The predecessor of the former, which was called the Old Town, was meanly built and about 1820 was utterly demolished in order to make room for improvements at Cullen House. In March 1645 Cullen was plundered by the Farquharsons of Braemar, by orders of Montrose, and to help it in its distress collections were ordered to be made in all churches of Scotland. The municipal buildings were erected in 18za at the expense of the Earl of Seafield; the harbour provided by the Earl of Seafield in 1817 has on various occasions since then been enlarged and improved. The Seatown is inhabited mainly by the fishing community. In George Macdonald's novel, Malcolm, the scene of which is laid in Cullen, it is thus described: "The Seatown of Portlossie was as irregular a gathering of small cottages as could be found on the surface of the globe. They faced every way, turned their backs and gables every way-only by the roofs could you predict their position-were divided from each other by every sort of small irregular space and passage, and looked like a National Assembly debating a Constitution." Cullen House grounds contain many magnificent forest and ornamental trees. Nearly parallel to the links runs a railway embankment 5o feet in height and connecting at its eastern extremity with a viaduct over the burn of Cullen consisting of eight arches, each of 63 feet span and upwards of 70 feet in height.

Dufftown (1626), in the parish of Mortlach, has been a police burgh since 1863. It was founded by the Earl of Fife in 1815. It is now one of the chief centres of the distilling industry in Scotland and it has a flourishing business as well in the burning of lime. A tower in the Square is a leading architectural feature in the town. The Stephen Cottage Hospital, opened in 1890, was built and endowed by Lord Mount Stephen, the most famous native of Dufftown. For many years a great power in the commercial activities of Canada, he was one of the potent forces in the construction of that work of Imperial magnitude-the Canadian Pacific Railway. Both in this country and in the Dominion his benefactions have been princely.

Findochty (1776), founded in 17r6, was erected a burgh in r9r5. Fishing is the paramount industry. In common with similar communities on the coast it has increased much in size of late years.

Fordyce (297), a very ancient place of settlement, was erected a burgh of barony by charter dated 1499 and renewed in 1592. Of one of its clergymen of the early post-Reformation period, Mr Gilbert Gairdn, it is said that he "seldom went to the pulpit without his sword, for fear of the Papists." Fordyce has for long been best known for its secondary school, with its valuable bursaries.

Gardenstown (1090) was the first herring fishing station on the Moray Firth, the industry having been established in 1812. Standing on Gamrie Bay, it is in summer a favourite of artists, who seek to transfer to their canvases the rugged beauties of the east "neuk" of Banffshire, with its twin villages - Gardenstown and Crovie - its dark caves, its precipitous headlands, the home of a great variety of seafowl, its seething cauldrons and its gigantic chasms in the rocks through which the wind sighs and the sea waves roar.

Keith (4499) is the chief agricultural centre of the county. It consists of three communities, which were united into a police burgh in 1889. Old Keith, a very ancient place, was celebrated for its annual three days' market held in September, whither traders resorted from places as far apart as Glasgow and the Orkneys. New Keith, on the Seafield property, was begun about 175c. Fife-Keith, on the other side of the Isla, was founded by the Earl of Fife in 1817. Keith is the seat of an extensive industry in meat, and has important cloth and manure factories. The town is annually the scene of one of the largest one-day agricultural shows in Scotland. The present Institute buildings date from 1889, and much good work has been done in the community by the Turner Memorial Cottage Hospital.

Macduff (3411) formed, of old, part of the Thanage of GIendowachie, which comprised a large area east of the Deveron. Robert the Bruce granted the Thanage and other lands to his sister's husband Hugh, Earl of Ross. Later it was for long in the possession of the Earls of Buchan. As a small fishing village, less than two centuries ago, it was known as Doune or Down—it clusters along the eastern base of the Hill of Doune—and in 1733 it was bought by William Duff of Braco, afterwards first Earl of Fife, a family that has greatly fostered the interests of the town. Through the exertions of the second Earl it was in 1783 erected into a burgh of barony. The harbour has been the mainspring of the town's activities. It was purchased in 1898 by the Town Council from the Duke of Fife and since that time a large amount of money has been spent on its extension and improvement, and it is now one of the largest, safest and most convenient harbours in the Moray Firth. An extensive addition—the Princess Royal Basin. —was opened by the Princess Royal in May, 1921. The burgh possesses a fine town hall. In the vicinity is the Howe of Tarlair with its iron spa, situated amidst impressive rock scenery.

Newmill (558) in the parish of Keith, the successor of a village of great antiquity, was founded by the Earl of Fife in 1759.

Portgordon (1369), the most westerly town in the county, was founded in 1797 by the fourth Duke of Gordon, after whom it is named. In 1874 it was provided by the Superior with a new harbour, which was enlarged and deepened in 1909. In the pre-railway era it was the port of shipment for an extensive inland area.

Portknockie (1746), founded about 1677, was made a police burgh in 1912. Its interests are almost entirely in fishing. It has a fine fleet of about fifty steam-drifters.

Portsoy (1951),erected a burgh of baronyin 155o,became a police burgh in 1889. Its industries include fish-curing and the manufacture of oatmeal.

Sandend (356), to the west of a beautiful bay with a fine expanse of sand, is wholly devoted to fishing.

Tomintoul (479), standing 1160 feet above sea-level, is the highest village in the Highlands, while the distinction of the highest in Scotland falls to the Lanarkshire village of Leadhills. It was founded in 1750 on what was a bleak and barren moor, but of late years its amenities have been greatly improved; and, possessing some of the most important attributes of a Highland health resort, it has been described as "at once the breeziest, healthiest, and most primitive little town in the Kingdom." Tomintoul occupies a table-land overlooking the river Aven, with views of hills andglens and wooded passes, with the mountains of Ben Aven and Ben Macdhui in the distance. Its railway stations are Grantown-on-Spey (14 miles) by Wade's road via Bridge of Brown; Ballindalloch (15 miles) via the Faemusach or the picturesque Avenside; and Dufftown (zo miles) by way of Glenrinnes.

Whitehills (1108), in Boyndie, is a thriving sea-side village, almost entirely dependent on the fishing industry. It is an important centre for line-caught white fish. A new harbour was opened in 1900.


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